Fire Danger: Locked Doors? Blocked Exits? SAY SOMETHING!!

by Tammy Taylor

RancherMan & I were running errands in a nearby town recently and we decided to stop for a quick bite to eat.  It was raining and there were rivers of water running through the parking lot, so a close parking spot was nowhere to be found.  We parked at the end of the building and made a run for the doors.  As we finally reached the doors drenched from the rain, RancherMan leaned forward to open the door for me as he always does.  “PLUNK“.  The door was locked.  OMGosh for the love of PETE – someone please help this make sense for me. Why oh why do so many business have TWO doors to their establishments only to have one locked at all times??  And we’ve even run across some businesses that post a permanent sign to inform patrons to use the other door! WHY?? (smh)

Please Use Other Door Why businesses have TWO doors to their establishments only to have one locked at all times is a mystery. This is a fire safety issue! #TaylorMadeHomestead

Does anyone have any insight into why businesses routinely lock one of their doors & force patrons to use the other?  Maybe there’s a reason? But I’m thinking if a fire broke out at this fast-food place during the busy lunch hour & all patrons rushed to the door they would be met with a locked exit door.   

Panic Situations

I know what happens in a fire-panic situation where people mob to the exit only to find it locked. Yes they can try the adjoining door, but by that time they are not exiting in a straight line.  Now they’re backing up, looking around, changing directions, stumbling, falling, etc.  And each person that falls becomes an exit obstacle for the person behind them, and so on. Because of my long tenure in a fire-protection field I’ve had to be aware of so many tragic events at restaurants, night clubs, etc.  I’ve seen way too much fire tragedy.

Fire safety is in my blood. My father retired as captain of the Bethany Fire Dept after 21 years of service and he was also a photographer for the newspaper on days that he wasn’t on duty as a fireman.  He had his own photo development equipment so there were always lots of fresh photographs of the action. 

The Picture that Changed My Life

I remember as a child being curious about the pictures of the fires he had taken.  So I started flipping through the stacks of large 8×10 black & whites.  One particular photo made me stop in my tracks…  It was a fire fighter giving mouth to mouth to a small baby in an attempt to revive her, with her melted skin stringing from the brave hero’s fingers.  That sweet baby didn’t make it and that picture haunts me still…  Perhaps if business owners knew the devastation a fire causes is not only in property but in Real. Human. Life…

I myself worked in the fire protection industry for over 20 years.  Although I’m usually a very shy person and hate to create waves, my children have witnessed many times where I called a retail establishment out on a blatant fire safety issue.  I was astonished once when a restaurant lazily stacked highchairs in front of the fire exits.  So I requested that they move them.  But they moved them a couple of feet to the right to block only HALF of the fire-exit door!  So I requested they move them completely away from the exit. The servers were beyond irritated that I would dare to make such a request, requiring them to go further to retrieve a highchair when one of their guests required one.  Oh if only they had seen that picture…

Smoke Alarms

Once while traveling my brother decided he should test the smoke detector in the fancy-schmancy Bed & Breakfast he & his wife were staying in.  (Oh yes, I’m so proud he thought to do this…)  He had to get something long enough to reach the button on the ceiling-mounted smoke detector.  But when he pressed the button there was no response – it didn’t even have batteries in it!  That false illusion of safety is not protecting anyone and the laziness or cheapness of not replacing that battery is not worth a human life.  If only that B&B owner had seen the picture…

Smoke Detector - Why businesses have TWO doors to their establishments only to have one locked at all times is a mystery. This is a fire safety issue! #TaylorMadeHomestead

OK, once while staying in a hotel I requested RancherMan to  check the smoke detector in our room. When he did the alarm went off and the fire department was automatically dialed.  Although thankfully the emergency call was canceled before the firefighters actually hit their trucks, you definitely want to make management aware of your request before you test.  OOPS!

Carelessly Blocked Fire Exit = Potential Death Trap!

And what about this! Last week we were enjoying a special celebration dinner at a very well-known restaurant. The server seated us close to the fire exit & THIS is what I saw! The fire exit was blocked by several chairs, serving trays, foldable serving tables, high chairs, etc. Why, to even reach the fire extinguisher you’d have to climb several high chairs stacked 2-3 high and somehow shove them out of the way to retrieve it!  Oh, if those servers had only seen that picture…

When you go to a restaurant, do you notice the emergency exits? Are they blocked? Locked?? This is a life-or-death fire safety issue! #TaylorMadeHomestead

Typically I’ll go straight to management & ask that they remove the blockage immediately. But not wanting to embarrass our dinner guests, I instead took pictures.  I forwarded them that very night to the fire marshal of that city.

When I didn’t hear back from him I sent the Fire Marshal a follow-up email asking if there had been any action taken.  I restated my wish to be informed of any updates. He finally responded to my email:
“I conducted an on-site inspection at the location and I spoke with one of the managers. I informed him of my concern and he and I walked the dining area together. At this time we were not able to identify any blocked exits. However, I showed him the photo that you sent to us and he stated that he would make sure that all exits remain unobstructed”

This awareness is all I can really hope for. BUT, if y’all see something similar in a restaurant or other public location – speak out! Awareness is key!

Speak Up!

Like the fly that insists on landing on your nose over & over again until you become irritated enough to take action, I’ve got plenty of ammunition to work with, and dammit I’ve seen the picture!  I’ll be speaking with each & every manager of a business that has one of their doors locked and ask them to unlock all of their public access doors for the safety of their patrons.  I’ll demand that the fire exits remain unobstructed at every public establishment I visit.  And If I don’t get appropriate action I’ll contact my fire department or my County Fire Marshal’s Office and have them swing by & chat with them – I hope you’ll do the same.

Rant over.  (turns off light & drags soapbox off stage left…)

~TMH~

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8 thoughts on “Fire Danger: Locked Doors? Blocked Exits? SAY SOMETHING!!

  1. Kathryn Grace

    Thank you for sharing your concern so passionately. You totally got my attention. We here in the Bay Area are still reeling from the Ghost Ship fire that took so many lives, and another in the same city just this week that claimed four more. Both deadly fires occurred in structures with years and years of fire safety violations. Like you, I am shy, but I will speak up if I see fire escape routes blocked. Thank you again for your impassioned plea.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      OMGosh Kathryn Grace, chills. Yes, such a large loss of life is usually a temporary wake-up call for many, but that memory soon fades in the rush of day-to-day life. It takes all of us being vigilant & speaking up to keep that safety awareness at the front of everyone’s minds. Yeah I’m shy, yeah I hate to make waves but I’ll speak up when I see blocked fire exits. I’ve seen the picture! ~TMH~

      Reply
  2. Virginia Kimbrell

    This has never occurred to me! Thank you for this post; I will start paying attention and follow your example. Blessings to you!

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      It hasn’t occurred to lots of people, Virginia. Unless you’re in the business of fire protection, have family in fire protection or have seen the devastation and loss of life with a fire, it’s not something you think about as you’re out & about. Feel free to share this post – education is key! ~TMH~

      Reply
  3. Joelle

    My own office has a history of bad fire safety practices. We’ve failed our fire inspections numerous times for storage rooms full of paper so high that the sprinklers were blocked. As an emergency first responder volunteer I have heard enough and seen enough to be “paranoid” but I am always met with rolled eyes and apathy. I sometimes wish that fire safety courses involved the controlled fire situations fire-fighters face in their training. Let people see what it is like to be in these situations with trained professionals on hand in case of injury. Maybe then more people would worry before it is too late.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      I hear ya Joelle. I hear ya. Share this post – let’s increase awareness! If more people were aware, more people would speak out. ~TMH~

      Reply
  4. Gentle Joy Homemaker

    I have seen the same thing, and though I have mentioned it, I need to do better. One of my sons worked at a place where they actually unloaded large heavy pallets right in front of the fire escape… he took the time and moved all of it on his own because of the danger. Thank you for this post… I will be sharing it.

    Reply
    1. Taylor-Made Homestead Post author

      Thanks for sharing – I really feel education is key. Not only to restaurant managers & servers but for patrons too. If you see something, SAY something! The life you save could be your own. You’re helping spread that awareness. Thank you! ~TMH~

      Reply

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